Jungle retreat@ Corbett (June 26-29, 2011)
“I always decide where to go, this time you gotta run the show.” lui made himself very clear. Scanning the Uttarakhand map, I was trying my level best to find a nice, quiet place to celebrate our anniversary – a day which had been overcrowded for past 2 years. The idea of going to Lansdowne, though very romantic, got bombed – thanks to no accommodation status on Cleartrip.com. I was all set to cancel my leaves, when Corbett came to my rescue. Phew! At last, I wouldn't be embarrassed to get back to office and cancel my leaves!
Bubbling with excitement, I was up at 4 on an otherwise lazy Sunday morning. What a smooth drive – Delhi to Moradabad, Kashipur (had Paranthas for breakfast there), Ramnagar and finally Corbett. Heavy rains ensured not many people dared to increase the traffic while we were ruling the road. In fact, we reached Corbett one hour before the check-in time. Even the reception guy at La Perle (the river resort) was surprised to see Dilliwallas ahead of schedule.
From my earlier experience with riverside stay (river rafting camps at Rishikesh), I was not expecting much more than decent place and damp upholstery. But I was wrong. The moment we stepped inside the resort, lush green mango trees welcomed us, exhibiting countless mangoes well within our reach. Like a child, I was tempted to pluck all the mangoes and started planning the hunt.
Beautifully landscaped gardens, huge, spacious rooms, small but clean pool (catering to over sized aunties from Punjab), wooden signage, rabbits, birds, dogs – wow! This was too much to ask for on the banks of Kosi.
We quickly checked in, Lui already desperate for bears (Name he had given to a Punjabi family abusing the swimming pool) to get out so that he could get in. But, seems the bears wanted to value every rupee spent. So, no such luck. Seeing the beautifully landscaped and well maintained mango trees, I was expecting a lavish treat of forest greens for lunch. But the lunch buffet was the worst meal I ever had. Greasy Shahi paneer, half cooked dry moong dal, bland mix veg, dal, papad style naans, La Perle food is a complete no no. And when I had to shell out 700 bucks for that disastrous meal, my frustration seemed no bounds and Lui was in splits, giving me gyaan on positivity.
After a nap, we explored around for next day's adventures. The resort guy told due to heavy rains, Jeep safaris had stopped & our only option was to spend Rs 2500 for elephant safari to Sitaguni forest, sans tigers. Confused, we decided to relax first.
Discovered a small village at the entrance & a small tea shop. The shop owner, a simple chap, too excited to see the Delhi number on our car, served us great chai & we headed back to Ramnagar' for dinner options. (Didn't want to burn another hole in our pocket by dining at La Perle). Ramnagar too, didn't entice us with its dhaba style Chinese food and small, shady eateries. Very skeptical, we chose the safest bet – Bread, eggs & rum....and dozed off watching the idiot box in our exec room.
Donno what it was – the romp, the rum or the travel fatigue – we got up at 8 & remembered we had decided to take the 5-7am elephant safari! But riverside vacations are supposed to be laid back, so we had a nice cuppa, shower & decided we would go on Zen Safari! ( Zen aka our red Zen Estilo...hehe!). Entering the Dhangagiri side, passing by the villages, curious onlookers & animals, we were heading towards some fishing camp Lui was so excited about. It had rained sometime back, & the water, stuck at various places, tried to scare our Zen. But, having driven to Badrinath the last monsoons, we were very confident of our Lal Pari, and it didn't disappoint us.
Ten minutes into the forest – my mouth was wide open at the sight of a bunch of spotted deer flocking into the forest. As shocked as I was, they kept gazing for few seconds, enough time for Lui to click them. Deer at the beginning, ye dil maangey more...I said to myself.
Bearing the rains & only stopping for Maggi breakfast, we somehow reached Marchhula – the address on the fishing camp signboard – only to discover it was under construction! Hats off to marketing - people advertising fishing camps 30km ahead when the resort isn't even ready. Hairaan, pareshaan, we could only go back to La Perle & we headed back.
Looking at the Garjiya Devi dhaam board, I thought it would be nice to go there. Lui was reluctant but seeing people taking dips at river ghaat, he declared – hum bhi dubkee lagaayengey. Poor us, we never knew it would be a queue inspired by Tirumala. It took us good 1 hour of standing barefoot in sunlight before darshan & Lui's excitement evaporated In the heat. All he wanted was to go back to the hotel, have lunch & head for another fishing camp.
Near La Perle, we discovered Pine tree – a decent place with reasonably well a la carte menu & our tips ensured we would get even better service the next time. Just as we left Pine tree, we spotted a chhabeeli monitor lizard, walking the ramp in its full glory. It obliged us for a photograph & went away.
As we returned to La Perle, we saw the bears checking out! We quickly changed & jumped in the pool with our beer cans. It was my first time in a pool & I must say, I have been silly enough to have missed this joy for 27 years of my life. A good 1.5 hours in the pool tired us & we just collapsed on bed.
A call from the fishing camp guy at 6:30pm woke us...Lui had once again missed his date with the fishes! Tuna macchli (that's me) was his only option. We went to the village tea stall. A WWF board there took me by surprise & an NGO worker told they had trained the village women in preparing natural manure using earthworms. Too excited to see the work in progress, I braved the cow dung heaps to see the Maggi like earthworms at their work. I was told it takes 2-3 months to prepare manure. “We take care of them like our children.” the group head said with a smile. We immediately decided to adopt few earthworms & take 20kg manure back home. Call it their simplicity, lack of marketing & exposure, they were overjoyed with a 100 rupee order & expressed gratefulness.
Evening was spent striking the best mango deal in Ramnagar. We actually bought 25kg mangoes for our folks back home. We even managed to spot a beautiful spotted deer on our way back, but just like movie stars, it didn't like shutterbugs & ran away. The pine tree staff served us another sumptuous meal with a smile & we even forgot the Vodka. Too tired, we hit the sac.
It was our wedding anniversary! Since we didn't have much left to do at Corbett, Lui decided he HAD to do fishing today before heading for next destination. 2 Chameleons were too enthusiastic to pose for us & we didn't disappoint them either.
Just before Pine tree, Lui saw KMVN board. His excitement seems no bounds, as if he had seen an old time friend! We were served the freshest breakfast ever! The chef got ingredients from the market while we waited patiently. The breakfast was awesome, except for the fly who decided to try breast stroke in my tea!
We finally met Noor Mohammad – the fishing guy. Lui's friend had caught a turtle few days ago & he was too keen to break the record, or at least match up. Because of rains, the water had become muddy. Even a live bait failed to entice other fishes, leave apart turtle. I had always thought Golf was one game that required patience till I tried fishing. Poor Lui, he rested his bum on this big uncomfortable stone, holding the fishing stick, waiting for the prey. Half an hour, no fish. 1 hour – no fish. It seemed the fishes had decided to play hide and seek with him.
I still wonder how was he able to drive, seeing the condition of my own bum!
Noor Mhd. tried his level best to hold our interest with his half baked information on supposed Crocodile in Corbett, tigers he had seen. Only fish could have us hooked on. Rain again played the spoil sport. We called it a day, paid him 1000 bucks, blamed our luck, then consoled us that we were saved from the sin of killing a fish. Time to say goodbye to Corbett.
Back to Ramnagar, we were clueless where to go next. None of our friends in Delhi could get us a booking in Lansdowne. Nainital didn't seem enticing as we had been there before, so we decided to head to Haridwar. Lui was too confident about his map & it was a good treasure hunt from Kashipur to Haridwar- passing by villages where people were too surprised to spot a car. Kashipur, Seohara, Jaspur, Nagina, Najibabad & finally Haridwar.
We checked in at good old Ginger (which has become rather bad, thanks to the TATA cost cutting). First hotel ever without an AC working in the lobby. Even 2 letters on the signboard were missing...Singur effect, I thought!
The evening Aarti at Har Ki Pairi made up for all the heat, dust &
fatigue. With time, the priests there have become tech savvy & Anuradha Poudwal enthralls the crowds with her prerecorded melodious Ganga Aarti everyday. But it was an experience to remember. The ambience, floating diyas in Ganga, sanctity, huge crowds....keeping all this aside, I can never forget the heaps of dirt & garbage on the ghaat. Coz every evening before the Aarti, the volunteers invite donations for maintenance.
That night, we decided to explore Foodmax – just opposite Ginger, whose attractive exteriors built some hopes. Huge hall with eight ACs! Lui immediately said “They invest so much in comfort, the food must be good.” The tattered menu & empty tables said it all. The food, lets not talk about the taste, was like serving snacks to a Punjabi for dinner. Smallest raita bowl I ever had. Someone give me the number for Guinness Book of World Records Society!
We took a dip in Ganga & gorged on the Ginger breakfast buffet. Before leaving, we predicted FoodMax would have vanished by our next trip...Lui had even advised the stewards to cut down on AC cost & spend on food instead.
It was good old drive back home – Haridwar, Muzaffarnagar, lunch at Cheetal & back home. This trip was different – not much action, but nice & quality time spent together.
Looking forward to Lansdowne. Keep watching this space for more!